The Lenten Gift


During the Lenten season we are asked to make sacrifices, to give up something in recognition of the sacrifices that Jesus Christ made for us.  These sacrifices usually focus on the material aspects of life, rather than the spiritual.   But Lent is not only about our gift to Jesus.  We receive a wonderful gift from Him, too … the gift of knowing oneself better.

Through prayer and the yearly Lenten practices we are led to discover who we really are.  Last week I chanced upon an online reflection by Fr Andy Alexander, S.J. whose thoughts I would like to share with you.

He asks us as our Lenten gift to let our prayers become more personal, more about ourselves, more about our relationship with Jesus.  He believes that then we will discover who we really are in God’s eyes.  “We will be able to discover pockets of independence, areas of resistance, patterns in our life that our unhealthy and sinful.”

Thus Lent can become a day by day process of being more and more aware of the Gift being offered to us.  Lent becomes not just a time for us to give something of ourselves, but it is a time to be aware of and to receive the gift of a Person, and of a more intimate relationship with Him.  We will be drawn to greater freedom, and deeper self-sacrificing anchored in love.

Fr. Andy says, “When we are more intent on prayer, if we stay open to the graces being offered us from Jesus who always desires a deep relationship with him, we will be drawn – reading by reading – story after story – into admiration and affection for Jesus, his way, and his invitation to us.”

It is in this context that we should be open to the flowing out and flowing in of the Lenten gifts.  This does not mean giving up candy or alcohol, or even by chipping away at our bad habits (although these are admirable personal sacrifices).  The next step in living out a closer relationship with Jesus is to offer ourselves in service of others – that is, to love as Jesus loves us.

Acts of charity, both to those closest to us and to others, will be purifying and transformative as we let our hearts be open to and compassionate for those who are deeply in need in our city, or in our world, to let our hearts be touched by personal encounters with people in need.

When we let ourselves fall in love with Jesus, and then let our hearts desire to be more like his, Lent comes alive. Then, Lent moves quite directly to celebrating his love for us on those major feasts during Holy Week, and a profound desire to love as he has loved us.

What a fruitful Lent this could be!